What does Black Lives Matter mean to you?
To me it means the fight for justice and equality. And its very existence as a movement for social justice means that our current society has failed to ensure that black lives matter.
Why do you think it is important for us to be protesting here in London?
I think it’s important to show solidarity with the black victims of police brutality and racial injustice in America, and to protest against similar manifestations of institutionalised racism in the United Kingdom. This is not just an American issue—despite our different gun laws. Five years ago, almost to the day, the worst riots in decades were sparked across the UK when a black man was shot by the London police. The Black Lives Matter movement is fighting permeations of racial injustice beyond the police force. The protests that took place in London, Birmingham, and Bristol last week were directly addressing racial injustice on this side of the pond. And in the wake of Brexit: speaking—and acting—out against racial and ethnic prejudice has become all the more urgent.
Why did you go to the Black Lives Matter London marches?
To show support for the families of Philandro Castile and Alton Sterling—and the countless black victims of police abuse in America. My country has experienced a heart-breaking week of violence and division. I wanted to show solidarity with the victims of this violence as part of a healing process.
And because I think it’s important to act out against the violation of human rights–regardless of whether or not I am directly affected by the shape of this injustice.
How would you describe the atmosphere?
It was very inspiring—the energy was one of unified action against injustice. Everywhere we walked, I was struck by the amount of support. From parents and children cheering from apartment windows—to drivers honking their horns, waving their fists, and shaking protester’s hands in solidarity. London’s daily flux of humanity was put on pause—and this disruption was met with encouragement, instead of disdain. While the protest was galvanized by the upset, and anger, at the deaths of innocent black men—this march seemed to focus on what could be done in order to move forward. And to say that injustices like the deaths of Castile and Sterling will no longer be swept under the carpet— trivialised, or localised.
Many of the faces I saw in the crowd were my age or younger. One of the main organisers was an 18-year-old girl from Essex—who had a heavy hand in getting an estimated 3,000 people from Oxford Circus to Westminster peacefully. There were also a noticeable number of small children. Part of what seemed to be driving this protest was a refusal for future generations to face the same injustice, the same violence, the same unequal treatment—as their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so forth. I was also struck by the range of backgrounds that were represented amongst protesters. The march did not attempt to shame or divide—but to unite.
What do you think needs to happen next?
I think the criminal justice system, in both America and Great Britain, needs major reform. But I also hope for even deeper change to our attitudes towards– and policies around–race. Which, in part, means continuing to show solidarity and support for the global Black Lives Matter movement out on the streets, in the voting booth, and in how we treat one another on a daily basis.